As part of the AI-NURECC Initiative, the CPMR organised a side event in Budva on the eve of the 2019 EUSAIR Forum (7-8 May). The seminar on Skills Development and Training Action focused on blue growth and tourism, which represent respectively pillars 1 and 4 of the EU Adriatic & Ionian Strategy (EUSAIR).

It gathered representatives of the academic and business sectors with a view to initiating dialogue to examine industrial transition and entrepreneurial discovery within the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies and promote access to related EU Programmes and Funds.

Mr Jean-Pierre Halkin, Head of Unit, Macro-Regions, at the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (European Commission) talked about how macro-regional strategies can address the challenges in the Member States, particularly through a high intensity of bottom-up cooperation between multi-level stakeholders. The AI-NURECC Initiative acts as a tool for the EUSAIR to link up people working in specific sectors (research, innovation, digitalisation and sustainable tourism) and help all multi-level stakeholders, such as cities, Regions, Universities, Chambers of Commerce and civil society, to work together while at the same time being connected to the EUSAIR Thematic Strategic Groups.

There are still some remaining challenges: targeting the ever-increasing efficiency of financial resources at a time when financial allocations for the next programming period are on the decline; integrating Northern Macedonia as the 5th non-Member State of the EUSAIR: and maintaining the transnational programmes that ultimately support the implementation of macro-regional strategies.

The European Commission expressed its full support to AI-NURECC activities and reassured participants that it remains committed as Coordinator in this process.

Ms Eleni Marianou, Secretary General of the CPMR, presented the developments and implementations achieved so far under the AI-NURECC Initiative activities that have placed youth at the core. She underlined the importance of the work between Regions, cities, Chambers of Commerce, Universities and Associations, which is the “bridge between the current programming period and the future one starting in 2021” and which will benefit future generations. “It is important that young people, thanks to events like this, learn and go back home with the necessary knowledge and the ability to do it all by themselves”.

Mr Vučić Ćetković, Adviser to the Deputy Chief Negotiator/National IPA Coordinator and EUSAIR Deputy Coordinator for EU Funds, from the European Integration Office of Montenegro, stressed that the AI-NURECC activities contribute and provide added value in implementing the EUSAIR and create synergies that are of great importance for the participating countries in all Regions. “The EUSAIR serves as one of the mechanisms to drive the EU enlargement and integration process. It offers the opportunities for all countries involved to equally align to EU policies and standards in order to protect and further develop the Region”. He reminded participants that the EUSAIR represents the unique “macro-regional” type of approach helping to bring people together. Macro-regional activities are significantly contributing towards implementing Cohesion Policy and decreasing social and economic disparities in Europe as well in the Region. Activities in the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies are crucial to identify strategic areas for intervention and wider active involvement of all stakeholders, in which Montenegro is a reliable partner.

This issue was addressed under the first session entitled “The European framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies and the industrial transition and entrepreneurial discovery”, with the participation of Dr Petra Karanikić, Head of Technology Transfer Office, Assistant Professor, Department of Biotechnology, University of Rijeka (Croatia), Dr Konstantinos Giotopoulos, EU Projects Department, Achaia Chamber’s Development Entity (Greece), Dr Ales Gnamus, Project Leader, Smart EU Macro-Regions/S3P-NEAR/S3P-Blue Growth, Territorial Development Unit, Innovation & Growth, Joint Research Centre, European Commission and Professor Yorgos J. Stephanedes, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Patras (Greece).

All of them described in very practical terms how Research and Innovation activities are carried out within the S3 context and partnerships.

The second session included speeches by Ms Blanka Belošević, EUSAIR TSG 4 (Sustainable Tourism) Coordinator, Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Croatia, who discussed industrial transition and entrepreneurial discovery focusing on EUSAIR pillars I (blue growth) and IV (sustainable tourism). Mr Matic Batič, Researcher, Institute for Historical Studies, Science and Research Centre Koper (ZRS Koper, Slovenia) presented the MerlinCV Project, a cross-border project that raises the profile of the cross-border Italo-Slovene Region by enhancing the unexplored potential of cultural and natural heritage and gastronomy whilst providing innovative, integrated, thematic and sustainable tourist products. Dr Gregory Yovanof, Managing Director at STRATEGIS Maritime Center of Excellence, STRATEGIS Maritime ICT Cluster (Greece), focused on services for growth and how Blue Economy companies can become more competitive with regard to their business/production processes, products or services by using digital technologies.